By Bose Adelaja
For Mr. Ozokolie Sunday,a resident of Idumota in Lagos, December 26, 2012 will go down as a day he would live to regret. Ozokolie owned four shops in the popular Jankara market which was gutted by fire on Wednesday. Looking dejected and unable to control his emotions, Ozokolie told Vanguard Metro that he lost goods worth over N15 million to the fire disaster. The shops were located at Numbers 43 and 45 Ojo Giwa Street in the thickly populated Lagos Island Business District.
Ozokolie said he was still in celebration mood when news of the disaster filtered into his ears. According to him, “I received the information with shock because I was not around”. The trader who described the disaster as the most unfortunate incident in his life, explained that he temporarily passed on when the news of the incident was broken to him through a phone call.
Ozokolie who sells electronic items said he stockpiled two of the shops with goods when the Yuletide was approaching.
In an emotion laden voice, he told Vanguard Metro that he never had nopremonition that such a disaster would befall him. ‘’I never knew this kind of thing will happen at this point in time. I had just taken stock of my goods before closing for the Yuletide. At the last count, I had about N15 million worth of goods in the shops. I was preparing to travel home when I got the message. I don’t know where to start from again,’’ he cried.
Mr. Ozokolie who said he obtained a loan facility to purchase some of the items said: ‘’As soon as I got the message, I rushed to the scene only to discover that my source of livelihood had been razed to ashes. I watched the expensive electronics in the shops go into flames because by this time, the fire had gone beyond what the fire fighters could handle”.
Also narrating his ordeal, another electronics dealer, Mr. Chibuzor Hezekiah said although he was able to salvage some of his wares, he ran into another tragedy as some of the goods were carted away by hoodlums. ‘’My sister, I was the first person to get here before the fire spread to my shop and with the help of sympathisers, I was able to salvage my wares. But the most expensive items were carted away by hoodlums who pretended to be rendering assistance to me,’’ he recounted.
Although the inferno had been completely put off by yesterday, the smoke from the incident was still palpable in the area.
Speaking to Vanguard Metro, the boss of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority, LASEMA , Mr. Femi Osanyintolu said about twelve buildings were torched during the incident. A further breakdown shows that ten buildings were seriously burnt while two were slightly burnt.
‘We are still on recovery operation to ensure stability in the area. We want to guide against storage of explosives and anything that can affect the lives of residents. People should be careful with items that are brought into their buildings. Explosives or inflammable materials should not be stored in residential places.
The inferno has been completely put off except for flames as a result of alkaline and inflammable items. We want to completely pull down the structures and check the debris to ensure explosives are completely removed,’’ he added.
Jankara market located at the centre of Adeniji Adele area of Lagos Island was last Wednesday gutted by fire which erupted from a building which was loaded with explosives. One person allegedly died during the incident while about 40 others sustained varying degrees of injury. Also razed to ashes were a Government-owned Secondary School and about eight vehicles.
Jankara market is mainly populated by Igbo traders
Residents of the area said the inferno was triggered off by some passers by who were playing with fireworks. The fireworks were said to have hit the affected building, causing the explosives stockpiled for the Christmas and New Year Festivals to go into flames.
Although emergencies operations commenced immediately after the incident, some of the traders were not that lucky as they could not salvage even a pin.
It took the combined efforts of men of the Federal Fire Services, Lagos State Fire Services, Lagos State Emergency Management Authority LASEMA, National Emergency Management Authority NEMA, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC to stop the fire from spreading to other buildings.